Book Review – Strong Female Protagonist

3.5 stars. Alison Greene is a superhero who’s given up the crime fighting and glory of “Mega Girl” for a normal life–college, family, and friends. She continues to struggle with her past, especially with how others treat her and look to her for help.

Several things work very well in “Strong Female Protagonist,” chiefly the thoughtful and satirical take on normal superhero tropes. The focus on the effects of her actions and her place in the world shows a loving awareness of the genre, mocking it through taking it oh-so-seriously. Author Brennan Lee Mulligan clearly likes his material sufficiently to poke fun at it from time to time.

A few aspects make the story less effective for me. The writing is fairly heavy handed when it comes to morality and politics and the reader is rarely left to draw their own conclusions as to the themes of the story. I also did not care for the pages set in reverse type with black background, which were difficult to read. Occasionally long narrative passages and infodumps interrupted the story flow. That probably worked well in web comic form but is much more intrusive in the collected story. There is also neither an overall story arc nor a definite resolution, again probably due to its serialized publication.

I enjoyed the black and white artwork and its strong lines. Artist Molly Ostertag lays out the pages with excellent flow. Each page ends with a comment, which was sometimes enlightening, sometimes annoying, and usually snicker inducing. The e-book ARC was grainy in spots with compression artifacts. I assume that the print or final published e-book format will improve upon this.

Despite dealing with weighty themes, “Strong Female Protagonist” does not lose the sense of fun crucial to the superhero genre. Characters and relationships are engaging; I was especially drawn to the Patrick (who seems to have all the best lines). A solid graphic novel with a believable premise and identifiable issues, enjoyable and thought provoking at the same time.

ARC kindly provided by NetGalley.

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